Monday, April 12, 2010

Gods' Game 1.4 - Big Dogs

Episode 1: Arrival
Episode 2: Reunions
Episode 3: Nigh Watch
Episode 4: Big Dogs
Episode 5: Judgment
Episode 6: On Display
Episode 7: The Uninvited
Episode 8: Departures

Episode Four - Big Dogs


Jack lay on a mattress that smelled of urine and sweat. Other smells permeated the small cell as well, rust from the thick iron bars and bed along with the dusty smell that comes form centuries old mortar. Still, as jails went, this was far from the worst cell Jack had been in.

The jail was made up of a ten foot corridor that was twenty feet long. Five cells lined each side of the corridor with stone walls separating each cell. A guardroom at the corridor's end held four humans who busied themselves over a game of dice. Laughter, taunts, and cheers would occasionally explode from the group over a roll. Jack's cell gave him a good view of the action. He pretended not to notice the guards or their game, but truth was he yearned to take the guards for every copper they possessed. He was good at dice, even when he didn't cheat.

Occasionally, one of the guards looked his way, grunted, then went back to the game. Eventually, one of the guards lost enough that he quit the game. He got up with a sour look on his face and walked down the row of cells tapping the bars with a club as he passed. Jack pretended to sleep. He knew from experience an angry guard often took his anger out on prisoners.

The guard stopped in front of Jack's cell. "Hey, shorty," said the guard. "I know you're not asleep."

"Leave him alone," said a voice with an odd accent from the next cell.

"Shut up, woodsman," said the guard striking the bars of the next cell.

Jack heard a deep, canine growl. The low rumble was as much felt as heard.

"You should be careful, guardsman," said the voice. I'm not sure these bars could stand Fenris' wrath and once angered he is hard to calm."

The guard licked his lips but held his ground. "These bars have held worse than that monster you call a dog." The guard struck the bars again to highlight his point.

The growl got louder. Jack noticed the other guards' abandon to watch.

"Go on, Garrance. You aren't afraid of little dog like that are you?" one yelled.
The guard hit the bars again then backed away quickly. He bore a nervous smile enjoying the thrill of taunting whatever growled in the next cell.

"You're making a mistake," said the voice calmly. "Fenris will only suffer this so long."

"He'll suffer more if he tries anything," said the guard now confident he was safe.
Jack heard one, very loud, very deep bark and saw the guards eyes expand to the size of tea saucers. Brick and mortar fell to the ground as something large threw itself against the bars of the cell next door. Jack caught a brief glance at on huge, black, furry paw that shot between the bars. A snout with teeth that were as large as his forearm snapped between the bars.

The guard fell to the floor, tripping over his own feet. He scampered and crawled down the hall. From the smell, the guardsman needed a change in undergarments. The guard's retreat caused the beast next door to begin barking and slamming itself against the bars again. To the credit of the jail's long dead builders, the bars held.

Jack saw the guards drop their clubs and draw swords. They stood at the end of the cell row waiting to see if the beast broke through.

The voice next door uttered a single word in a language Jack didn't understand. The beast stopped its attack. The voice continued in the unknown language using soothing tones. Jack heard the sound of something large laying down. The beast whined once, then sighed, then fell silent.

The guards backed away from the entrance. One laughed a little and made a joke about the state of the taunting guards undergarments. This lead to other jokes as the guards resumed their game minus the taunter who made some excuse about needing fresh air.

"Thanks, mate," said Jack.

"No worries," said the voice next door imitating Jack's accent. A large hand came around the wall of the adjoining cell. "Name's Ballar." Its occupant obviously meant to shake hands.

Jack extended his own hand placing it in the large human's mit. "My name's Jack Large. Please to meet you."

"A Staulian halfling," Ballar said. "You're the second one I've met here in Misty Bay."

"Has everyone met Fast Larry?" asked Jack more than a little cross.

"He tried to steal what little gold I had as I approached the colony on Trader's Road. Fenris almost swallowed him whole. Fast Larry hasn't bothered me since."
"Should have turned the blighter in," said Jack. "I'd like to see how he'd fare on night patrol."

"I see you two have history as well," said Ballar.

"Yes, bad history," said Jack. "So what are you in for?"

"Violating leash laws," said the voice next door. Jack laughed and Ballar joined him.

"I'm serious. Fenris here has been officially labeled a nuisance to the peace. They told me to keep him in a stable. He didn't think that was a good idea. Several guardsmen tried to kill him, and I intervened. Truth is, I think more of Fenris than any human I can think of."

"So it's night patrol for both of us then," said Jack.

"Depends, said Ballar. "I'm going for sure. What did you do?"

"Beaned a drunken fisherman who threatened to stomp me."

"Eh," said Ballar, "you might get off with some jail time."

"Maybe so," said Jack. "Well, I reckon I should get some sleep before I meet the magistrate."

"Agreed," said Ballar. "Just one thing, when you go into the chamber, don't even try to lie. It'll be painful, and it won't do your sentence any good."

"Chamber?" asked Jack.

"You'll see," said Ballar. "Goodnight, Jack"

"G'night, mate," said Jack as he lay back down but sleep eluded him until the early morning hours.

(To be continued...)

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